‘I’m Only Interested in What I Do Next’

Kyaw Phyo Tha The Irrawaddy

RANGOON — At his first solo show back in Burma after living for 19 years in the United States, one of Burma’s most celebrated artists, Win Pe, says he puts the paintings he doesn’t like anymore on display.

He doesn’t say he no longer specifically likes those 44 Acrylic paintings shown at Win Pe 1 art exhibition, which is now open to public at Beikthano art gallery in Rangoon, but he says, “as soon as I finish painting a picture, I no longer love it anymore.

“I know it’s not good for saying I don’t like what I’ve painted. It can’t be helped as I’m only interested in what I do next,” said the 79-year old artist.

“My technique is subjective to spontaneity, like stream of consciousness. If I get an idea, I just put it down on canvas at once,” he explained. “If not, my mind is drifting into another new idea,” he added.

At his first solo show, most of colorful artworks of Win Pe are based on Zodiac signs, accompanied with Burmese women wearing longyis, with mouths conspicuously absent from their faces. However, visitors would find the artist’s reminiscence to Mandalay, his native city in upper Burma, in some paintings with its old moat—the city’s landmark—in the background, while there are also a couple of politically motivated works, too.

Widely known as a “multi-talented artist”, Win Pe is a movie director, scriptwriter, novelist, cartoonist and artist. He has played a leading role in the evolution of modern art in Burma.

Once blacklisted by the Burmese government for his outspoken criticism of the junta while participating in an international writing program at the University of Iowa in 1994, he was only able to visit his native country last year after he was finally removed from the list.

He said he worked on more than half of the paintings displayed at Win Pe 1 during his current visit to the country, which began about a month ago and will last for a few more months.
“Now I focus more on painting given to my age and health,” he said before adding he still hasn’t decided yet whether to settle back in his native country as the situation here is still unclear.

“If everything is fine and good, it’s out of question that everyone loves to be in their home country,” he said. When talking about his paintings, the multi-talented artist said he is just playing with visual elements and paints whatever he likes.

“I only care about doing what I want to. If someone likes my painting, I take it as an additional success. If they buy it, I feel I’m lucky!” he said.